Africa Media Review for September 29, 2023

The Slaughter of El Geneina: How Arab Fighters Carried Out a Rolling Ethnic Massacre in Sudan
As Sudan plunged into civil war, the ethnic-African Masalit tribe came under weeks of systematic attacks in West Darfur by the paramilitary RSF and allied militias. In the city of El Geneina, at least 1,000 bodies were buried in Al Ghabat cemetery – which filled with hastily dug mass graves. They were determined to bury their dead – even if the snipers on the surrounding rooftops meant they were risking their lives to do so. To give themselves cover, they buried the dead at night, putting multiple bodies in the same hastily dug graves. … The burials in Al Ghabat cemetery continued for more than seven weeks, from late April until mid-June, turning the rectangular plot into a sprawling mass grave for at least 1,000 residents of the Sudanese city of El Geneina in West Darfur. The carnage, according to dozens of eyewitness accounts, was the result of more than 50 days of attacks on the city’s majority ethnic African tribe by Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force drawn largely from Arab groups, and allied Arab militias known as Janjaweed. The killing frenzy reached a climax over several days in mid-June, as El Geneina was turned into “swamps of blood,” according to one survivor. … The tenacious resolve of survivors to bury El Geneina’s dead with honor is one of the signature features of the conflict that tore apart the city. … The killings, dozens of witnesses recounted, included executions of El Geneina residents who were identified as Masalit, sometimes after being interrogated by RSF and Arab militia fighters. The militiamen, survivors said, were particularly focused on killing Masalit men and boys, seen as potential fighters. Reuters

10 Civilians Killed in Artillery Shelling by RSF in Omdurman
At least ten civilians were killed and others injured on Thursday when the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shelled a transport station in the Aljarafa area north of Omdurman. Clashes between the army and the RSF continued in the three cities of Khartoum. In a press statement, Sudanese army spokesman Brigadier General Nabil Abdallah accused the RSF of indiscriminate bombing of the area under the army’s control, which led to the death of 10 people and the wounding of 11 others, including serious injuries. The Aljarafa Resistance Committee said that the RSF militia bombed the northern countryside transportation station with a bulldozer, killing nine civilians, including families and children, and injuring dozens more. The situation in Sudan is likely to escalate further as both parties to the military conflict that began in mid-April insist on continuing fighting until a sweeping military victory is achieved, ignoring regional, international, and local calls for a long-term ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to reach those affected by the fighting. Sudan Tribune

US Imposes Sanctions on Former Sudanese Minister and 2 Companies Backing the Paramilitary Force
The United States imposed sanctions Thursday on a former Sudanese government minister and two companies tied to the African country’s paramilitary force that is locked in monthslong fighting with the Sudanese army. The sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury will block all property in the U.S. and entities owned by Sudan’s former Foreign Minister Ali Karti, Sudan-based information company GSK Advance Company Ltd, and the Russia-based military company Aviatrade LLC. … The Treasury said both sanctioned companies have been supporting the RSF in its fight against the military. It said the two have worked together to procure parts and supplies, as well as training for unmanned aerial vehicles and monitoring equipment for the paramilitary force following the outbreak of the conflict. … U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement on Thursday that Karti had led “efforts to undermine the former civilian-led transitional government and derail” the roadmap to transition to democracy following al-Bashir’s ouster. AP

Niger Attack: Soldiers Killed by Hundreds of Jihadists in Kandadji
Hundreds of Islamist militants riding motorbikes have attacked a town in south-western Niger, killing 12 soldiers, the defence ministry says. Seven soldiers were killed in combat, while five others died in a road accident responding to the attack. The defence minister said over 100 militants had been killed in a counter-offensive. Jihadist attacks on the army have risen since the military seized power in July. … Reports say soldiers from across the country have been recalled to the capital, Niamey, to guard the coup leaders, leaving large areas vulnerable to militant attacks. At least 17 soldiers were killed last month in another attack near the border with Burkina Faso. This was the deadliest known attack in the country since the coup. … The departure of foreign and UN troops in Mali has also been followed by an uptick of violence by both Islamist insurgents and rebel groups. BBC

A Car Bombing Struck a Meat Market in Central Somalia. Six People Died, Officials Say
A car bombing struck a meat market in central Somalia on Thursday, killing six people and wounding 14, local officials said, the third attack of the day in the volatile East African country. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack at the market in the town of Buloburde in Hiran region or the two earlier attacks on Thursday in the southern city of Dhusamareb, where no casualties were reported. Somalia faced frequent attacks by the country’s al-Qaida affiliate, the militant group al-Shabab. Buloburde Deputy Commissioner Jaliil Isse Foodey … said that authorities believe a government base located near the market that’s the home of an army commander was the intended target. AP

Over 2,500 Migrants Lost to Mediterranean in 2023: UN
Over 2,500 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean so far in 2023 while trying to cross into Europe, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Thursday in New York. That is a stark increase from the 1,680 dead or missing migrants in the same period last year. Migrants and refugees “risk death and gross human rights violations at every step,” Ruven Menikdiwela, director of the UNHCR New York office, told the Security Council. This comes on the same day when European Union interior ministers met in Brussels to discuss how to handle people migrating to Europe by sea amid growing concern from member states Italy and Germany. Member states and the European Parliament have been negotiating for years on far-reaching reforms to the bloc’s common asylum system but without results. Some 186,000 people have already arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea between January and September 24 of this year, according to the UNHCR. DW

Migrants are Being ‘Dumped’ in a Small Tunisian Town, a Busy Port of Departure to Europe
Along the main road running through downtown El Amra, Tunisians and immigrants live together but do not mix. Each group has its own café and span of sidewalk. Located in the center of Tunisia’s central-eastern coastal region, which stretches some 60 kilometers from Sfax to Chebba, the town has become one of the main ports of departure for the Italian island of Lampedusa, less than 150 kilometers off the Tunisian coast. Smugglers, metal boat builders, engine dealers, lookouts and intermediaries of all sorts all keep very busy here. Despite official rhetoric from Tunis about the fight against traffickers and the border control function delegated to it by the European Union, crossings have increased over recent months. On Wednesday, September 13, the Italian authorities reported a record number of migrants arriving from Tunisia, with almost 7,000 people disembarking in 24 hours. In response, the Tunisian Interior Ministry announced a large-scale security operation. On September 16 and 17, hundreds of illegal immigrants who had taken refuge in the historic center of Sfax after being evicted from their homes and subjected to a manhunt with the help of the police were transported to rural areas, in particular to the towns of Jebeniana and El Amra. But the forced relocation brought them even closer to the departure areas for Europe. Le Monde

Tunisian Opposition Leader Ghannouchi Starts a Three-day Hunger Strike in Prison
Jailed Tunisian opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi, a fierce critic of President Kais Saied, has begun a three-day hunger strike in support of other imprisoned opposition figures, his Islamist Ennahda party said on Friday. Ghannouchi, 82, was sentenced to a year in jail in May on charges of incitement and plotting against state security. More than 20 other opposition figures have been detained this year. They say Saied’s shutting down of the elected parliament in 2021 and moves to rule by decree amounted to a coup. Saied, who enshrined his new constitutional powers in a referendum with a low turnout last year, has denied his actions were a coup and said they were needed to save Tunisia from years of chaos. An Ennahda party statement said its leader had launched the three-day action to support fellow jailed opposition figures who are protesting at what they say is unjust imprisonment. Jawher Ben Mbarak, a prominent opposition figure who has been detained for more than seven months, began an open-ended hunger strike this week, arguing that his jailing was politically motivated. Reuters

UN Security Council Cautious over Faster DR Congo Monusco Pullout
Members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) expressed reservations on Thursday over the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) call to accelerate the withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces. Last week, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi called on the UN to speed up the pullout of the Monusco peacekeeping mission that has been in the country for nearly 25 years. He urged the pullout to begin by the end of this year, rather than December 2024 as planned. The Security Council needs to renew the mandate for Monusco in December, with Kinshasa expressing doubts the force has been effective in protecting civilians from decades of militia violence. With the security situation still very dangerous in the eastern part of the country, some UNSC members have expressed doubts about the advisability of accelerating the handover of peacekeeping to the Congolese military. … UK Deputy Ambassador James Kariuki said London is prepared to consider a reduction in the number of peacekeepers, based on Kinshasa’s request. “However, we must also carefully consider the implications of Monusco’s drawdown on the civilian population,” Kariuki said. “The consequences of a rushed departure would be severe,” he added. … Monusco’s chief, Bintou Keita of Guinea, said that setting a withdrawal date at this point would not be wise and called for discussions with the force’s partners “to see exactly what they have in mind.” East African/AFP

DR Congo: UN Mission Still Disinformation Target, as Withdrawal Speculation Grows
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains mired in insecurity, characterized by volatility and tensions that show no signs of abating, the head of the UN’s peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) there, said on Thursday. Attacks on local populations, roadblocks and denial of humanitarian access, continue to fuel suffering in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, Special Representative Bintou Keita told the Security Council in New York. “As I speak today, over six million people remain displaced in [these places],” she stated, urging continued support for underfunded relief operations. … The looming general elections planned for December are a crucial milestone for the country, she added, commending national efforts to meet the deadline set out in the constitution. “It is important for the Government to ensure that the democratic space is protected, that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are guaranteed and that human rights are respected,” she added. Ms. Keita stressed the importance of a conducive environment which will allow MONUSCO to withdraw in line with its overarching mandate. “Regrettably, the mission continues to be targeted by mis- and disinformation, as well as threats and attacks,” she said, condemning the killing of civilians by national security forces on 30 August in Goma. UN News

Ahead of a Vote in Eswatini, Africa’s Last Absolute Monarchy, Some Lack Hope
Eswatini will hold on Friday (Sep. 29) parliamentary elections in which political parties cannot directly take part. About 585,000 registered voters will be called to choose 59 members of the lower house of parliament, which plays only an advisory role to the monarch. In addition to elected lawmakers, 10 are directly appointed by King Mswati III. A situation this student Union leader deplores. “They are saying that there are elections that are free and fair, there is nothing like that. The world must know that in Swaziland we are living in absolute monarch. The three arms of government are under one man, not even a certain, one man. King Mswati III is the one that decides what is going to happen.” Only about a dozen of candidates nominated during primaries last month are known to have ties to the opposition. If some contest to represent their constituencies, human rights lawyer Sibusiso Nhlabatsi says these elections cannot change the way the 1.2 million people are governed: “The purpose of an election in my view, is to form a government, if you can’t form a government then the elections are meaningless.” … Most opposition groupings have called for a boycott. Three have told voters to go to the polls. AfricaNews/AFP

Investigation Launched into Killings and Evictions on World Bank Tourism Project
The World Bank is investigating allegations of killings, rape and forced evictions made by villagers living near the site of a proposed tourism project it is funding in Tanzania. The bank has been accused of “enabling” alleged violence by the Tanzanian government to make way for a $150m (£123m) project ministers say will protect the environment and attract more tourists to Ruaha national park. The “resilient natural resource management for tourism and growth” (Regrow) project will almost double the size of the park, which is 130km (80 miles) from the city of Iringa. Villagers living near Ruaha told researchers at the Oakland Institute thinktank that rangers had killed and beaten cattle herders and fishers, had raped women and confiscated thousands of head of cattle, under the premise that they had encroached on the national park. In April 2021, rangers reportedly shot and killed William Nundu, a fisher, and allegedly killed two herders, Sandu Masanja, and Ngusa Salawa, who was only 14 years old. The regional police commander claimed that they were killed by wild animals while illegally entering the park, according to a report published by the institute on Thursday. More than 21,000 people from dozens of villages around Ruaha are also facing eviction by the government, it claimed. Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, … said the World Bank should have scrutinised the Tanzanian government’s record on human rights before financing it. The government authorised evictions close to the same area in 2006 and has been criticised for its handling of forced evictions in northern Tanzania, which “should have triggered internal alarm before the bank decided to finance the project.” Guardian

Mobile Cyber Threats Rising in Nigeria, Others—Report
Africa has become one of the hotspots of mobile cyber threats in the world, according to new research published Thursday by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity and digital privacy company. The report indicates that threats to mobile devices increased in the second quarter of 2023. Among the most prevalent mobile threats that were detected in the Middle East, Turkiye and the African region are “adware and mobile banking threats.” There was a significant rise particularly in adware detections: 94 per cent in Nigeria, 49 per cent in Turkiye, 27 per cent in South Africa, 39 per cent in Kenya, and 6 per cent in the Middle East. Meanwhile, banking trojans, which are used to hunt for data related to online banking and e-payment systems, are another concerning threat for mobile users. Specifically, Turkiye saw a twofold increase (102 per cent) in Trojan-Banker detections in Q2 2023 compared to Q2 2022, the report said. While users increasingly rely on their mobile devices to share personal data and connect to corporate networks, the report noted that the number of mobile threat detections particularly in Africa, the Middle East, and Turkiye increased by 5 per cent. Premium Times

Innovative, Sustainable Funding Needed to Deal with Neglected Tropical Diseases
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affect over a billion people worldwide. These diseases, like Mycetoma and African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness are preventable and treatable, but if untreated they can debilitate, disfigure, and kill. Despite affecting so many people, especially in underdeveloped countries, budgets for NTD-related programs are often limited. Of the 1 billion people worldwide affected by NTDs, an estimated 40% live in 47 African countries. “It is quite shocking that you could have diseases that affect over a billion people and still receive such little attention and resourcing. We were talking to ministers of health and they said the problem is prioritization. NTDs are really neglected for a reason and that neglect is shown in the insubstantial resources that are put towards them,” said Thoko Elphick-Pooley, the executive director at Uniting to Combat NTDs, a global advocacy organization working with over 150 partners around the world to create awareness, educate, and end NTDs. The organization, with the WHO Africa Region and the health ministers of Comoros, Ethiopia, Senegal, South Sudan, and Zambia, discussed and identified opportunities to unlock financing for NTDs on the sidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Meeting in Gaborone, Botswana. AllAfrica